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Isaiah Thomas on season: ‘If we put it all together, we could be special’ 10.25.16 at 3:40 pm ET
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WALTHAM – Isaiah Thomas is well aware of the lofty expectations of most Celtics fans this season. 

The All-Star guard from a year ago has his own goals heading into the 2016-17 season opener Wednesday against the Nets. 

“To be another All-Star. All-NBA. Win a playoff series and go from there. That wasn’t in order, but those are definitely goals of mine. And first off, I definitely want to win a playoff series. So that’s the most important. But individual things, I have a lot of goals I want to achieve.” Thomas said after Tuesday’s final practice before the opener. 

The Celtics are coming off a 48-34 season in Brad Stevens’ third year with the team. What is the next step? What is the potential of this Celtics’ unit?

“If we can put it all together, we could be special,” Thomas said, before hedging. “I’m not going to say we’re going to go to the NBA Finals or do none of that, but like I said before teams know we can be really good. We just have to put it together and find our identity, which is on the defensive end. And if we do that everything else will take care of itself.” 

Thomas was asked if he’s going to be paying any attention to the season of his opponent Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets. If the Nets finish with the worst record in the league, the Celtics will have a very good chance of the top overall pick. 

“I worry about scoring the ball, getting my teammates involved and winning games,” Thomas said. “I don’t know nothing about those first-round picks. And I wasn’t a first-round pick so I don’t care about first-rounders.”

What Thomas has seen so far in practice and the preseason gives him plenty of reason to be optimistic. 

“We played pretty well. I think overall as a group we’re ahead of the curve. We showed glimpses of how good we can be, and then we also showed glimpses of we’re not that great at the same time. But that happens in preseason. So hopefully we got all the kinks out and we can be perfect [Wednesday].”

Thomas sounded anxious to get past the preseason and the practices and start playing games that count.

“They’ve been important,” he said of preseason games. “Paying attention to detail more. Just trying to lock in on the things we do well and get better at the things we don’t do as well, and worry about us. Now it finally means something to play. So, we’re ready. I’ve been ready. I’ve been ready for the preseason to be over and things to start counting.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas,
Marcus Smart out for 2 weeks to start season: ‘It sucks’ 10.25.16 at 2:57 pm ET
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WALTHAM – When Marcus Smart went down with a left ankle injury against the Knicks in the preseason finale, he knew the timing was bad.

Smart has been working hard ever since the end of Game 6 of the Hawks series to be the leader of a Celtics team ready to take that next step. Then he took a wrong step against the Knicks last Wednesday and his season has been put on hold for at least two weeks, as he announced after Tuesday’s practice. 

“A couple weeks. That’s the projection that they gave me, really just not trying to rush anything and just trying to make sure that we can limit this from happening again,” Smart said. “We’re taking every precaution we can with it.” 

But that means Smart, the projected sixth man for Brad Stevens, won’t be suiting up against the Nets when the season tips off Wednesday at TD Garden. 

“It sucks. It does suck just because you work so hard and, especially with these guys out here, you’ve been in the battles in practice and the fighting, and preseason,” Smart lamented. “I mean, the last game of preseason you get hurt, everything’s going wrong for you. But I’m optimistic about it and this team is. I’m just waiting to come back and get on the court with those guys.”

The best sign Tuesday was the sight of Smart on the sideline, chirping at his teammates and not wearing a boot on the injury foot.

“I’m feeling better. The swelling’s going down,” Smart said. “I’ve been in the training room, working with those guys and trying to help strengthen the ankle and get all the fluid out. It shouldn’t be too long. But like I said, better safe than sorry.”

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Celtics waive R.J. Hunter, give final roster spot to James Young 10.24.16 at 1:20 pm ET
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R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter

The Celtics have trimmed their roster for the start of the regular season, and former first-round pick R.J. Hunter was the final casualty, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed on Monday.

The team’s decision came down to Hunter vs. James Young, a pair of shooters who have thus far underachieved.

“James won the job,” Ainge said. “He played well. Day in, day out for the last six weeks, James was there.”

“I really like R.J.,” Ainge added. “He’s a great kid. He’s a good player and he had a good training camp also. So yeah, it’s disappointing. I think R.J. will get a chance somewhere. He’s a good player.”

The Celtics selected Hunter 28th overall in 2015, but he never cracked the rotation or established himself as a consistent marksman. He shot just .367 overall and .302 on 3-pointers.

His dad, Ron Hunter, told the Boston Globe that R.J. will move on. Hunter turned 23 on Monday.

“He’s disappointed,” Ron Hunter said. “For a kid to get waived on his birthday isn’t the best way to celebrate your birthday. But he understands this is a business and there will be another opportunity for him.”

The Celtics drafted Young, 21, with the 17th pick in the 2014 draft. He has averaged 2.2 points in 60 career games.

Read More: Celtics cuts, Danny Ainge, James Young, R.J. Hunter
Celtics cut Ben Bentil, hint that Gerald Green has made the roster 10.21.16 at 6:01 pm ET
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Ben Bentil

Ben Bentil

In the effort to trim the roster down to the maximum 15 players by next Wednesday’s opener against the Nets, the Celtics have said goodbye to another draft pick. 

The team announced Friday that Ben Bentil, the second round pick out of Providence this June (51st overall), has been released while veteran swingman Gerald Green will make the final roster to begin the season. Bentil does receive a $250,000 guarantee after signing his rookie deal after the draft. ESPN’s Chris Forsberg was the first to report the news. 

Bentil appeared in three preseason games for the Celtics, averaging 5.0 points, and 4.3 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game.

Friday’s move means the Celtics roster stands at 16, one above the roster limit to start the season. Ainge indicated that former first-round picks James Young and R.J. Hunter are likely to battle it out for that last spot, unless he can swing a deal with a team, exchanging a player or two for a future draft pick. That would free up a roster spot and allowed the Celtics to finalize their opening night roster. 

Ainge indicated that he and the organization would likely take the weekend to consider all possibilities before making a move on Monday. Green said Friday he had not been formally told he had made the team and said he was still trying to prove himself after missing time at the start of camp with a hip flexor injury.

Friday’s move means the Celtics have just two of eight picks left on their roster from June’s draft: No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown and No. 45 selection Demetrius Jackson out of Notre Dame. 

On Thursday, the Celtics began their roster trimming by releasing camp invites Marcus Georges-Hunt, Damion Lee and Jalen Jones. All three players are expected to land with the team’s D-League affiliate in Maine, a possible destination for Bentil as well. 

Read More: Ben Bentil, Boston Celtics, Gerald Green, Providence College
Report: Celtics offering R.J. Hunter or James Young for 2nd-round pick 10.21.16 at 1:48 pm ET
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According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Celtics are trying to use a trade in order to find their final piece on the roster.

The decision to finalize the Celtics’ roster is Oct. 26. Hunter and Young are considered the two candidates vying for the one spot. For more on that battle, click here.

Which player should make Celtics' 15-man roster

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Marcus Smart injures left ankle in Celtics’ preseason finale, availability for opener in doubt 10.19.16 at 10:19 pm ET
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The Celtics ran into their first bump in the road, Wednesday night.

With 48 seconds left in the first half of the Celts’ preseason game against the Knicks, guard Marcus Smart injured his left ankle. Smart was helped off the floor and into the locker room, not putting any weight on the ankle.

According to multiple reports, Smart’s injury almost certainly will keep him out of next week’s opener against Brooklyn.

Smart has experienced shooting problems throughout the preseason, going 3-for-22 from beyond the 3-point stripe. The guard was 1-for-5 from the floor in his 16 minutes before his injury in the preseason finale.

James Young, R.J. Hunter battle for final roster spot 10.18.16 at 2:13 pm ET
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Oct 17, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard R.J. Hunter (28) controls the ball while Brooklyn Nets guard Bojan Bogdanovic (44) defends during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

R.J. Hunter and James Young will have one more chance to strengthen their case for final Celtics roster spot (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

With one final exhibition game left on the schedule, the battle for the last roster spot has intensified. James Young and R.J. Hunter figure to be battling it out to the end. 

The Celtics have until the end of the week to determine who will fill out the back end of their 15-man roster and Young and Hunter have both made strong cases for themselves in their last two games.

Hunter, who has made the strongest statistical case of the two, scored a game-high 17 points against the Knicks on Saturday, capping off an impressive shooting performance. He scored 6-of-8 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from deep and not only knocked down open jumpers but made strong takes to the rim and got to the free-throw line. 

Young, on the other hand, followed up Saturday night’s Celtics win with his best performance of the preseason Monday night.

It may not have been as flashy as Hunter’s 17 points at Madison Square Garden, but Young (10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, one steal) was able to make the most of his 16 minutes by stuffing the stat sheet in the win over the Nets at TD Garden.

He also looked a lot more comfortable on the floor, compared to the beginning of the preseason. 

“I’m way more confident in my game,” Young explained. “A lot of people are backing me up to just go and be aggressive, so that’s really helped me.

“I’m just trying to do a little of everything — scoring, rebounding, passing, and not to do too much at the same time. Whatever coach has drawn up for me I just do it and help out the team.”

Both Young and Hunter are scoring at a similar rate — making the choice between the two very difficult. Throughout the preseason, Young has averaged 5.1 points, 3 rebounds and shooting 45 percent from the floor in 15 minutes per game. While Hunter is averaging 6.1 points, 1.5 assists and shooting 44 percent from the floor.

However, Young has been an efficient 3-point scorer, shooting at a 42 percent clip, whereas Hunter — recognized as a precise 3-point shooter — is shooting 27 percent from downtown.  

Brad Stevens has certainly noticed the improvement, thus making the decision of cutting one of the two that much harder.

“They all really had good moments,” Stevens said. “As I said before the game, those are hard decisions because everybody’s improved. I thought they all played well at times.”

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